I’ll just say it: Richard Branson epitomizes what I’m all about in ways I can’t even describe. I really can’t think of anyone else that pursues the kinds of values and does it in the way Branson does. He just gets his hands in all sorts of things: created a couple of mega-businesses, numerous successful brands, broke several world records, attempted many adventuresome others, and is pioneering private space tourism in company with another Great One: Burt Rutan.
By now, you’ve probably heard of the prize. I can’t help but be a bit disappointed. I’d like to think that he’s just doing it in his typical style of gaining unconventional publicity (that’s what he is, more than anything: a master of publicity) — that he’s really not so naive as to believe that this thing is settled. But I just don’t know. And, anyway, who’s to say whether or not whatever comes out of this will be truly beneficial, or not? At any rate, it’s none of my business. It just gives me a bad taste, that’s all.
I’m a fan of Trump’s series, The Apprentice. Yea, Trump is annoying, but in spite of that, he delivers a whole lot of good business sense in his program, and people are well-advised to pay attention. Do you want to know what is the most critical aspect of that show? It is learning the lesson that almost all decisions that really matter are hard and tough calls, and you almost never have adequate (forget perfect) information. Yet, you have to make a decision anyway, and those decisions affect people’s lives.
But I liked Branson’s effort to outdo Trump with his The Rebel Billionaire series. I liked it better, but I guess I don’t represent the business-ignorant, TV-viewing public. One thing I find irritating about Trump’s show is that is focuses too much on elements, like immediate success and profits, that typically take any serious and long-term business enterprise more than a single day to develop. Branson mixed in a lot of elements that were more qualitative in nature. He sought primarily to identify character, understanding that the rest follows as a consequence.
My favorite example was early on in the series; they had completed the first round of competition. Two people left, a guy and a gal, and the challenge was to muster the courage to enter into a specially-modified barrel (with Richard in company), be hoisted up two or three hundred feet above an enormous waterfall, and then be dropped into the water and over the falls. The woman almost immediately declined, but she gave a reason: the craft did not appear sound to her. The guy was all GO. No hesitation whatsoever. He and Richard got suited up, and then entered the craft to be strapped in (this is when I realized something was up: there was neither sufficient protection, nor was the door water-tight). The guy gave not a word of protest, in spite of being given numerous opportunities by Branson to back out. They were hoisted up. "You ready?" asked Branson. "Let’s go," the reply. At that moment, they were actually only seconds from potential death. "We’re not going," said Branson. "This craft isn’t near sufficient, or safe." "We’d both be killed." Want to guess who went home?
Do you grasp the implications? That guy just completely surrendered himself to Branson’s demands, took no opportunity to question, and placed his own life within seconds of being ended on the consequence of absolute trust. Whoa! I don’t know about you, but that’s reality TV. Now, do you grasp the business implications, the process of creating values at a net profit?
Meanwhile, Trump’s kids are creating a new promotional quesadilla for Taco Bell, and one team sells $300 more worth in a day. [clap clap]
I still wish Sir Richard well, in spite of the silly prize. I am nothing, if not a complete sucker for a true English Gentleman.